Asma Ahsan Asma Ahsan
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I love iced tea. Do I qualify for the club? :)

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Justin Campbell Justin Campbell
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'Sunglasses, Time-Travel, & Iced-Tea' Part 9

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Under the Double Star - Chapter One

9. – Leonard

I watched in incredulity as John introduced us as his ‘reality team,’ then watched as Tim, whom I remember Jason mentioning as a classmate at college, introduce us in turn to his group of iced-tea drinkers, something he made sound as if it were an elite, highly-cultured club consisting only of the highest thinkers of society. 1 comment

       John’s struggle to speak before them almost drove that imposed image home.

       They allowed us into the small backyard, where we found plastic patio seats positioned near the fence. Martin walked over to another chair that was padded, and Tim himself relaxed in a comfortable lounge chair, wearing all green attire. Being the founder and leader of his fellow iced-tea drinkers apparently gave him higher privileges.

       “And now,” Tim said briskly, “Today’s song.” He put a cassette into a small ghetto blaster and hit ‘play.’ A drum rhythm began playing, and within a few moments, someone started rapping in a foreign language.

       We all sat there awkwardly, in a tense state of apprehension. This was just plain weird.

       On the radio, I heard someone sing a chorus: “Drah de ned um, oh oh oh – schua, schua, der Kommissar geht um! Oh oh oh”

       “I recognize that,” Jason said. “The rhythm carried out in 4/4 time seems to rely on the Dm chord in the chorus!”

       “Er wird di anschau ‘n und de wei?t warum. Die Lebenslust bringt di um,” the voice on the radio sung.

       All the iced-tea drinkers listened intently to the music, apparently trying to grasp the full meaning of it – whether it was the foreign lyrics or the song’s message. Eventually, it finished, and Tim let out a sigh of content. Dean nodded his head in apparent understanding, and Martin raised his head from the bow it was in.

       “What was that?” Brian asked interestedly. “Sounded like a great tune.”

       “That was the single ‘Der Kommissar,’ sung by Austrian singer Johann Hölzel,” Tim said deeply. “The song of the day.”

       “Ah,” Jason said in realization. Brian then remembered, “Oh yeah! I remember the After the Plague version!”

       “After the Fire,” Jason corrected.

       Brian thought about that for a second. “Damn it!”

       “After the Fire Plague? Who are they?” Benny asked.

       “Never mind,” Jason said.

       “Now,” Tim went on, “to the current affairs of the day. We are graced with the presence of the Reality-Seekers, who consist of several time-bouncing members, most of whom have tireless apprehensions and fates on their chests. Today, that shall be our topic of discussion.”

       “Excuse me?” John asked.

       “I second that,” I said, beginning to absorb these sugary-minded peoples’ odd way of communicating. “Excuse me too?”

       “Excuse me three,” Jason continued. “Are you suggesting that we cross time and have personal issues?”

       “Why,” Tim said, “of course we are suggesting those notions. Now, Dean, why don’t you begin.”

       Dean leaned forward. “Of course, Timmy. Now…” He bowed his head for a second, as if collecting together a multitude of thoughts. “Jonathan Alexander Paiten, born August twentieth, nineteen eighty-eight, to David Paiten and Henrietta Borden, is here today with – nothing at all.”

       John stared in perplexity. “What?”

       “To put it in simple terms, you’re pure and happy and just plain cool.”

       John gave Dean a hard look, and slowly began. “That’s…great to hear,” he said with some impatience in his voice. “I don’t understand what you guys do or how you come around with this stuff, but my friends and I are – “

       “We know what you and your friends are,” Dean interrupted him. “Now, do settle down. Whatever will be will be, and your fate is not yours to see, just ours.”

       “Just yours!?”

       “Do not call upon your cerebrum to sorely act out your gross motor skills, we are here to be reassuring, debating and all manners of respect and honor,” Tim said with a slightly raised voice, resounding his importance almost overwhelmingly. “You have all the members of your body, use them wisely!”

       John almost buckled and quieted down.
       Brian said, “You guys are almost scary.”

       Dean ignored him. “We have never heard of such an untroubled person, and you should consider yourself graced with optimism. Now…Jason Robert Fisher, born June twenty-first, nineteen ninety-one, to Mark Fisher and Amy Overlake, sits here with us today with a constant feeling of loss, concern, nostalgia, and yearning for Mae Emma Redpine, born May twenty-third, nineteen ninety-three. He also has a negative approach towards people and a pessimistic attitude towards life in general, and feels that people will inevitably want to avoid him – particularly after his perception of the loss of two prior friends, Alanna Joan Canter, and Shirley Marie Andrews, and an unfortunate event which caused his questionable property ban from Fisher Glen Secondary School. Jason – you must lose your grip.”

       Jason stared at him, incredulous at Dean’s detailed introduction and statement. “Lose my grip?”

       “On figments of your past. Do not worry about your future. I recommend you open up about your problems to people who really do care for you more often than keep them to yourself.”

       “Yes," Benny added. "I could write an entire musical on you and Mae, your ex-girlfriend,” Benny began. “The way you think about her, and the frequency, your inner fight about the balance of who blamed who and how much complicated issues there were, your constant glancing at girls at wonder of how attractive she could potentially find them if she saw them – it’s a real problem.”

       “In the words of the Barenaked Ladies on their song ‘Enid,’ ‘it took me a year to believe it was over.’ Do not let it take you a year. Be like your noted strong exterior. Because there really is an issue there,” Tim finished.

       Martin said, “Make do with the bright side, my fellow reality-seeker. Forget about your ban from the educational institution known personally as your alma mater, and do not worry about whether or not Mae was the last person there, and not you. You measure years, dates, her name, and consistencies at the most irrational level, and it’s your downfall.”

       Jason was visibly shaking at this sudden focus on his issues, which these people somehow knew all about. “What…what…what...I don’t…oh, God!”

       Tim said, “The greatest weakness of people today is to follow, to resent, and to become mired in monotony. To become great, to bring oneself into positivity and fulfillment, you must think for yourself, follow your own path. You must lose your grip, let go, and keep changing, act like the intriguing chameleon – be different, but ever changing. You will not go anywhere standing around, thinking the same, acting the same, watching people move forward. People, they come together, and people, they fall apart too. The point is, no one can stop you now, because in the end, we’re all made of stars.”

       Brian said, “Hey! I know – “

       “Please do not interrupt the Founder of the High Society of Iced-Tea Drinkers,” Martin said sternly. Brian fell silent, staying in his state of awe.

       Dean said, “learn to let those who do not appreciate you go. That includes people like Mae, or past friends mired in probable disappointment based on misunderstanding or lack of own thought possession. You languish your friends Alanna and Shirley. If Alanna over-reacts because you did something unintentionally and tells Shawn at Donald’s Foods to keep away from you, then that’s Alanna’s rational thoughts and emotions, and they are hers to control.”

       Jason sputtered, “But how can they be rational! They’re unfair! Shawn said they were silly! I have a great friend in Shawn!”

       “Shawn bettered himself accordingly,” Tim said in a righteous tone. “He thought for himself, used his own rational thinking, and therefore acted in a mature manner that is expected from an adult of his age and stature.”

       “Rightly said,” Dean agreed. “Shawn relied on himself instead of blindly following someone else’s thoughts, actions, and emotions.”

       Jason spluttered, “but Shirley didn’t!”

       Dean brushed him off. “That is another great human flaw. You are taking an assumption and seeing it as a very true fact when you have absolutely no evidence. Shirley may have many reasons for not being continuously communicative with you. You may never know. I will not be telling you why, either, because you need to learn and grow, and adapt.”

       “Uh-huh,” Jason said quietly, his head bowed. This was turning into the most philosophical meeting ever.

       “People will freely come and go as they please in your life,” Martin said.

       “Think of it as you’re a casting director,” Benny suggested. “And people you know are hopeful actors auditioning for your production. Not all of them are good, some are great, and some will act in a rude or inept manner if you do not please them and give them the part. Some you will love but they can’t take the part because of other commitments or personal issues, or because your fellow casting directors don’t love them and overrule your decision. Those other casting directors are, in essence, metaphorically your own principles, which you will have to agree with on most occasions.”

       Jason stared at Benny, probably wondering how his high school friend had turned into such a wordy relationship counselor.

      “You must see,” Tim said, “that people are imperfect, faulty, always unstable to varying degrees, and unpredictable. You can go through life expecting the worst and stewing in grievances when people ultimately let you down or toss you away insignificantly – which they will do over and over, they are only human after all – but the only fulfilling way to carry on is to hope for the best in people, and live in the highlights of your relationships, however long they last. If they don’t appreciate you, or throw you away at the first minor error, especially if it’s unintentional and a misunderstanding, then that’s their problem and that’s their decision. That’s the way they chose to live their lives. What matters is the way you chose to live yours.”

       “Now,” Dean said, “Leonard Matthew Morin, born April thirteenth, nineteen eighty-nine, to Alia Morris and Glen Morin, comes to us with past issues of his parents’ divorce, chronologically finalized on January ninth, nineteen ninety-three, as well as troubles in moving on from previous partner Iris Lilly Rutherford, born June second, nineteen ninety. He also has issues of demand.” He focused intently on me as I stared, shaking my head in airy disbelief. “Most of the stuff we said and directed at Jason may have inadvertently covered some of the issues in your life, but not all, and I would still like to get specific with you.”

       “Oh, no,” I said.

       “Oh, yes,” Benny replied. “You’re still angry at your father, for one thing, and you’re also obsessed with your ex. I’ve got the book for the musical based on that right here, actually.”

       “Aw…you wrote an entire musical on my relationship with my bloody girlfriend?”

       “Of course I did. I just finished writing it after I sent my final copy of Jason’s relationship with Mae to my team of casting directors. I have a good feeling about this one since I knew Iris personally.”

       “You knew Iris!?”

       “Of course. We both went to Meadowlands P.S.”

       “Oh my god!”

        I was filled with shock and aw. But then again, was this all really real? Were we sitting in what would later be Jason’s old backyard? Were we really here in 1981? Was there really a cultured group of people that sat around drinking iced tea?

       Dean said, “Some things in life you will get to do early on, and some you will have to wait for. You got your enjoyable Chevrolet Impala early; you will have to wait a little before you have an intimate relationship, and obsessing about what you didn’t get to do with your first girlfriend is like driving backwards without looking.”

       “What are you people here to say that for anyway!?” I demanded. “I’m part of a ridiculous, almost randomly-assembled test team to ensure a temporal displacement convertor works properly, and in the end I’m stuck in 1981 talking to this nonsensical group of people about my personal issues, people who spend their time chugging iced tea for Christ sake!”

       The backyard was quiet.

       “You remind me of young Patrick when he was here,” Martin eventually said. “He over-reacted when we explained to him that his foot was habitually mating with the splint of wood in it due to the piece becoming engrossed within the flesh over time, as well as adding in his hair issues, and it was really only time before he understood the meaning of iced-tea, the backyard, and society.”

       “Whatever,” I said darkly. “Nothing makes sense right now.”

       “Sense is basically viewed as anything with everything,” Dean cryptically explained.

       “Except,” Tim said, “you are not nearly as sensual as you should be, which is a nature very few people tend to exhibit. Other than Jason, here.”

       “Then what am I? Charlie Sheen?”

       “Charlie Sheen…that rings a bell,” Benny said. “Wasn’t he in The Execution of Private Slovik?”

       “Yes,” Dean said, “he played the kid at the wedding.”

       “Neat film,” Benny concurred. “At any rate, no, you’re not like actor Charlie Sheen. Rather, what we mean to say is that you can be kind of hedonistic at times.”

       I sat forward. “I’m hedonistic? That’s why I pointed out Sheen!”

       “Charlie Sheen, as the kid at the wedding, was not in any way hedonistic. But you, our friend, you take things and use them up, and want more. You’re wondering what kind of things your past girl does in private, aren’t you?”

       “No…I’m not talking about that.”

       “You will have your time,” Dean said. “It will come. As for your father, sometimes you have to let those who are the most important to you go.”

       “I suppose you’re going to say to me what you said to Jason, we are all made of stars.”

       “No. I’m going to say that people are only human and sometimes you have to deal with loss. Your father is just as hedonistic. That’s why he wanted the divorce, of course.”

       I sighed. “Of course. Naturally. And just for how I feel, I might as well be thrown in a reality where north is south, east is west, cars drive backwards and fish have a structured government.”

       “I believe that’s the normal reality experienced by the United States’ forty-third president,” Martin remembered. “Remember when we talked to him?”

       “Yes, his issues were quite complicated. But we got through to him,” Tim acknowledged.

       “Who and what are you talking about?” Brian asked.

       “That’s classified material,” Benny admonished. “We can’t tell you.”

       “Now. We shall take a five minute break, during which time we shall refill our glasses…”

       “Wait,” Brian said, enthusiastically. “You haven’t done me yet.”

       “You?” Tim said. “Um…Dean?”

       “Uh…oh – yes.”

       Brian leaned forward in anticipation.

       “Brian Tobias Langley, born June fifteenth, nineteen ninety-two, to Mitchell Langley and Alison Perry, grins at us with issues of proper credit. Brian, you really should listen to your neighbor, Wilson Randall, with both ears, as well as the lyrics to the music you listen to…you don’t realize how often you mis-quote, or mis-attribute both Wilson and all the wonderful artists you feel inclined to bring up.”

       Brian looked slightly crestfallen. “That’s it?”

       Dean nodded, then the group all stood up, bowed, and followed each other into the door of the house.

       Brian said, “Wow. I can’t believe how insightful that group was.”

       “No doubt there,” John agreed.

       Brian then remembered, “Oh, yeah – Tim quoted ‘We’re All Made of Stars’ by Moby-Dick!”

       “Moby-Dick and Moby the American disc jockey and musician are two separate characters,” Jason patiently explained. “Moby Dick is a sperm whale in an American classical story of the same name, and the whale certainly did not bring the idea forward that we’re essentially made up of stardust in a pop song.”

       Brian stared ahead in thought for a moment. “Damn it!”

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